Review, The Shape of The Pain @ Northern Stage

Image: The Other Richard 

Whenever I get a headache or some sort of pain that is in my body that is causing me to winge, I winge on and on till someone does something about it. Usually, it ends up in me going to the doctors to be told I am fine.

After watching The Shape of The Pain I will never complain about a little niggle again. Presented by China Plate and developed by Rachel Bagshaw and Chris Thorpe, The Shape of The Pain explores a woman’s experience of physical pain with no reason as to why she has this pain, she has also fallen in love and wants to make it work.

We are presented with eight black panels that are projectors placed in a horseshoe shape, black speakers that will provide the sound and an actress (Hannah McPake) who is also wearing black. We are also told this at the start of the show, normally you address what you see in front of you by your own means, but in this performance- we are told what we are looking at.

It does not feel like a piece of theatre but like an exhibition or a sensory experience of a lecture.   Because the set and staging are all black it does feel like we are looking this person and are waiting to be talked at. It feels rather cold and I can not feel that caring engagement but I still want to and have that natural urge in me to care and to take care of this person who is in chronic pain.

As McPake stands in certain sections of the U Shape, often up against the black panelling or directly in the centre, she expresses how she feels and how she is dealing with this shape of the pain during different moments in her life.

TheShapeOfThePain_photo credit The Other Richard_036 copy.jpg

Image: The Other Richard 

Her words are poetic, there is a constant rhythm there and a repeated verse of Have You Tried … Asking has she tried jazz therapy, ketamine, thinking about being pain-free to treat her pain. This style of performance is reminiscent of Chris Thorpes’ Confirmation in the way that the piece is performed by this rhythmical speech.

I feel pathetic as I think about my so-called pain that I have thought to of suffered in comparison to this story, my pain is nothing.  It’s funny the piece is so cold and I feel alienated by it, I a look for warmth and I can’t see any.  I have to refrain myself from wanting to get up of my seat and offer a shoulder to cry on just to let her know that we as the audience care.

The performance is an intense piece of theatre, it opens up that window to feel sorry for the character but because it feels like that there is still a barrier between viewer and the story in front of us. All we can do is feel helpless and watch her suffer The Shape of The Pain.

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